Football League ready to roll
The problem with writing a piece looking ahead to a new season is the temptation to suggest the forthcoming campaign will be more competitive and stronger than ever.
It is almost a cliché, one that is perhaps born of a desire to see the football season kick off again and often followed by an acknowledgement sometime around March that the previous few months have been a little disappointing/predictable/lacking in quality
This time around, however, I have truly high hopes for the Football League, which starts on Friday with the Championship fixture between Middlesbrough and Sheffield United.
It comes comes only 74 days after Burnley pulled off their remarkable and largely unexpected promotion to the Premier League.
But who will go up this season?
"I don't fancy Blackpool or Scunthorpe but after that nobody and everybody," said BBC pundit Steve Claridge.
"It will be as unpredictable as ever. There will be some major disappointments and some nice surprises."
Newcastle seem certain to be one of the stories of the season - and in some respects precisely because it is impossible to predict what is going to happen to them.
The Magpies continue to lurch from one crisis to another, elevating the entire process into something of an art form.
Managerless, unhappy players, up for sale, thrashed 6-1 by Leyton Orient in pre-season - perhaps not surprisingly I have heard more people suggest they are more likely to suffer back-to-back relegations than win promotion. That said, their squad looks great on paper (emphasis on the word paper).
Newcastle open their campaign at West Brom, another relegated side, in a match that is being broadcast live on BBC One at 1720 BST on Saturday. I'll be there to see how the two teams shape up as they adjust to life in more modest company
The Baggies lacked a cutting edge at Premier League level but if they play the same brand of football under Roberto di Matteo as they did for Tony Mowbray before he left for Celtic then I think they could be a real success this season.
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate was far from popular with a large percentage of his club's supporters last season and, despite working for a very tolerant chairman in Steve Gibson, it is imperative his side starts well.
Leroy Lita is a good signing for them at Championship level but looking at some of the names in Boro's squad I do wonder if some really fancy an attritional season in the second tier.
Roy Keane had a brief look at the second tier of English football after arriving at Ipswich towards the end of last season and it will be fascinating to see whether he can repeat the promotion he achieved with Sunderland in 2007. Keane has money at his disposal, plenty of it apparently. But the summer's big spenders have instead been Nottingham Forest.
I think Forest boss Billy Davies boss has made some very shrewd signings - the likes of Paul McKenna, Chris Gunter, David McGoldrick and Dexter Blackstock. Davies has got loads of artillery and I just don't buy into anything he says about long-term plans. Davies is ultra-competitive and after just keeping Forest in the division last season I expect his side to figure at the other end of the table.
I haven't yet mentioned the likes of Bristol City, Cardiff, Crystal Palace, Preston, QPR, Sheffield United, Reading and Swansea - all of whom will fancy their chances.
The Championship is rich in a young and hungry generation of managers, people like Nigel Clough at Derby, Darren Ferguson at Peterborough and Malky Mackay at Watford.
What makes it so intriguing for me is that, unlike in the Premier League, so many teams will feel that if they stay injury free and play to their potential they have a realistic chance of making at least the play-offs.
Of course, we have seen over the last few years several teams that recently played top-flight football slipping into League One.
This year, Charlton, Leeds, Norwich and Southampton all find themselves facing a hard slog to get back to the Championship. There cannot be a third-tier league anywhere else in Europe than can boast so many clubs of such size and stature.
"Undoubtedly the bigger the teams, the better the league and this season League One should be great," added Claridge.
I was convinced that Leeds would win last season's play-offs and I expect them to go up this season under the assured management of Simon Grayson.
Norwich decided to keep faith in club legend Bryan Gunn, despite his failure to avoid relegation last season. It was a bold move but the Scot seems to have made some shrewd signings in the likes of defender Michael Nelson, winger Simon Whaley and forward Grant Holt. Having brought in 12 players, Gunn must manage their transition from a collection of individuals into a team if they are to succeed.
Huddersfield boss Lee Clark has been heavily backed by chairman Dean Hoyle as he shapes a team to have a crack at promotion. When I spoke to Terriers fitness conditioner Steve Black last season he was convinced that Clarke would go on to become a top-class manager. We should get some idea of whether Black is correct or not over the coming months.
Former Liverpool reserve team coach Gary Ablett recently became manager of Stockport, a club that went into administration towards the end of last season, is several million in debt and in the midst of a takeover. I have absolutely no idea how they will do this season but most bookmakers are convinced County will struggle.
Then there is League Two - and all eyes seem focused on Notts County following the arrival of former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson as director of football.
I think it is important to remember that County finished 19th last season. They have brought in some decent players such as Lee Hughes, Luke Rodgers and Karl Hawley but I am not convinced that Eriksson's arrival suddenly means they are promotion material. It remains to be seen how his relationship with Ian McParland, who is the actual manager after all, works out and just what sort of benefits the Swede will bring in return for his salary.
I hope that some of the unfashionable and cash-strapped clubs like Bury and Rochdale are able to push for promotion again. Alan Knill and Keith Hill did extremely well while working within tight budgets last season but just fell a little short at the end.
Mark Robins at Rotherham is a young manager who talks a lot of sense and I would not be surprised to see the Millers win promotion.
All things considered, there is plenty to be excited about when looking forward to the new season - and you will be able to watch every goal on the BBC website.
I obviously haven't been able to mention every team in this piece but I would love to know who will think will succeed - and who will struggle!
You can learn more about the BBC's new Football League coverage by reading this blog from Lewis Wiltshire.